For Once in My Life

Hello! Today I am excited to present a story that I have spent a rather significant hunk of time on. It is a sequel to “Honesty is the Best Policy” (link here. ) I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! And a special thank you to my friend who edited this for me.
~Faith

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   Katherine walked over to the window, pulled aside the lacy curtains, swung open the white shutters, and looked out. Usually the bright morning sun shining on the busy street below would have comforted her; today it did not. Everyone down below was hurrying to their various duties, some of them hawking their wares, acting as if nothing was happening. Did any of them know what she was going through? She supposed they knew, they just did not feel the sorrow as deeply as she did. But yet Katherine did not think that the feeling inside of her was truly sorrow, but a feeling of great uncertainty, uncertainty that scared her. She saw the people down there and wondered what it would be like to be one of them, to be down there with them instead of always above them. She pulled the curtains back before any person on the road chanced to see her crying. It would be a disgrace if they did. She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief, knowing the maid would be at the door soon.

    Knock, knock knock. There she was. “Enter,” Katherine said, and the maid entered. She was in her thirties, a kind and gentle woman. She always brought Katherine’s breakfast.

    “Good morning, princess,” the maid greeted, setting her tray of food down on a small table by the wall of the room. She seemed less cheerful than usual. Everyone was.

    “Thank you, Emma,” Katherine replied, sitting down at the table’s chair. It was wooden with a white cushion on it. She looked down at the breakfast in front of her: eggs, potatoes, and biscuits. Katherine looked around with a strange look. Her room was as pretty as always, Emma was standing there, the sun was shining through the lacey curtains, and she had good food. But yet, she felt so sad.

    “Do you need anything else?” Emma asked kindly.

    “No, thank you, Emma,” Katherine said.

    “Very well. Goodbye, princess,” Emma said and left quietly, leaving Katherine alone in her thoughts.

    Katherine ate her meal slowly, wondering what she should do next. I cannot just wallow in my self-pity, she decided. I ought to make the situation better, but I cannot. Only God can heal my father. Then Katherine had another idea. I can not make Father better, but I can stop myself from getting carried away with my feelings and selfishness. Father is not mine, he is God’s. If God wants him to–

    No. Katherine dropped her fork with a clang. No. He could not. But then she realized that she had to face the truth. “Father might die, but only might, not will,” she whispered, standing up and looking out of the window. “Most likely, he will be fine,” she told herself, nodding her head surely. “God is in control; I need not fear.” A feeling of freedom covered her–she did not have to carry the burden. And the truth shall set you free, she thought, and smiled.

    Then, as she looked out the window, she knew what she needed to do. She hurried back to the table and ate her last bites of potatoes and eggs. Then she rushed to the closet and pulled out a simple, plain blue dress out of the back of the closet. It was for when she went swimming. It was hardly worn. She took two biscuits that she had not touched and tucked them in a pocket at the side of the dress. It was popular now to have hidden pockets in your dress, and Katherine thought that it was a handy idea.

    Knock, knock, knock. Katherine heard. Who could that be? She wondered. She briefly looked down at her simple dress, stepped to the door, and peeked out. It was her mother.

“Mother?” she said, opening the door. Mother, as usual, was dressed in a burgundy silk dress trimmed with lace. Her mostly-gray hair was twisted stylishly on top of her head. Despite her queenly appearance, she looked like she was very tired and had been crying too.

“Katherine, dear, are you expecting to go swimming today?” Mother said, eyeing her unusual clothing.

“No, ma’am,” Katherine said. “I do not think so.”

“Well, listen, Katherine,” Mother said in a very strange tone of voice. “You’re father had more difficulty breathing last night,” she said. “Today he seems to be doing better though, and right now he is finally sleeping.” Katherine looked at her Mother’s kind, blue eyes for a moment. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Mother,” she said in a scared voice. “You do not think that Father will die, do you?”

“I do not believe so, dearest,” Mother said, wrapping Katherine in a motherly embrace. “We can never know the future, but be can trust God. He will be with your father. We need not fear.”

“Yes, Mother, I know,” Katherine agreed.

“The doctor will be here tonight, to tell us what he thinks,” Mother continued.

“Mother, I was wondering if I could go out into town today,” Katherine asked. “I know I was too young when I asked you before, but do you think I could go now? Or do I need to stay here with Father?”

“Oh, is that why you are wearing your swimdress!” Mother said, smiling. “Yes, I suppose that you could go. I am sure your father would want you to go and have a good time. But what makes you want to leave the palace today?”

“I am not exactly sure why. I just want to take a break from palace life for a little while,” Katherine said. “And see what it is like to be one of them: the common people. I think it would be good for me.”

“Do you suppose that you will be okay, out there in the city all by yourself?” Mother wondered.

“Mother, there are other seventeen-year-olds out there in the city,” Katherine assured. “If they can handle city life, then I am sure I can for a day.”

“True, true,” Mother said. “You are growing up so quickly. You used to be a town-girl yourself. But do use prudence, dear, and do not be out too late.”

“I shall, Mother,” Katherine said. “Thank you. And if you would, please tell Father that I shall be home before bed time.”

“Goodbye, dear,” Mother said, and walked away down the polished wood-floor hall.

Katherine slipped back into her room. She wrapped her hair up in a white cloth she usually used as a sash. It did not cover her hair fully, but it made her look less like a princess. Then she tucked a couple coins in her pocket so that she could buy food. Pleased, she slipped out of her room, closing the door carefully behind her, and slipped quietly down the hall and staircase to the sitting room where her siblings usually were, hoping to see them before she left. After telling her siblings what she was doing, Kate hurried to the servant’s steps and descended noiselessly, listening for any nearby servants. She heard some speaking as she waited on the bottom step.

“We need to make the beef stew for supper,” said one.

“But I thought that we were making venison stew!” said another.

Kate slipped from the staircase silently and started hurrying across the room at a brisk pace. But they saw her. “Get those dishes done!” one of the ladies called after her, obviously thinking that she was a servant. Katherine smiled. She had successfully fooled the servants. In the next room was the kitchen. Some servant girls were scrubbing breakfast dishes. They did not bother to look up. She slipped past them to the door leading outside and hurried out.

Outside the sun was even brighter, and it did cheer Katherine. Servants were walking about the place, busy stacking wood for the fireplace. She walked around the side of the tan-brick palace, past the palace guards, who also supposed that she was a servant. She walked on down the stone-paved street, where the loud sound of hawkers greeted her.
    “Bread! Fresh bread!” one woman called. Kate slipped by the busy townsfolk, looking at the little shops that lined the street. There was a cobbler’s shop, a dairy, and a bakery, among others. She stepped aside as a wagon carting a couple of wide-eyed farmer’s kids and their fresh produce rolled by. As she continued on, she tried to remember the last time she had been out in the public. Last month, she recalled, remembering the float she had stood on as she waved to the people during a parade. She was glad to not be above the people right now. She saw a small booth where a woman was trying to sell cloth. Katherine was enjoying all the sights. I used to be one of the many commoners, Katherine thought. And now I am one again for a day. I don’t feel like Princess Katherine, I am Kate again.

Katherine remembered the story her father had told her. When she was three years old, her father had become king, even though he had not known beforehand of any royal lineage. Now here she was, she had been a princess for as long as she could remember, yet that day she got to pretend that she was one of the many regular people again, just as she had been when she was three.

Kate wound her way through the many townsfolk, trying to act like she belonged. What will I do next? She wondered. Then she saw a large white-plastered building at the side of the road. It looked like a house, except that its doorway was open and people kept on coming in and out. Is the family having a party? she  wondered. That seemed unlikely because the people coming in and out were wearing dirty, torn clothes. She decided that she would take a closer look.

She walked over to the open doorway and peaked in. It was a simple, rustic-looking large room with dusty wooden floors. Two simple, wooden, and very long tables were set up in the large room, reaching from one side to the other. Tall windows were at the sides of the room, shining light on all the bustling activity in the room. There had to be about thirty people in the room, all of them cheerful and all of them wearing old, dirty clothes. They were talking loudly to each other as that ate soup and bread at the long tables. A young woman was going from table to table taking used bowls and handing them to a middle-aged woman who stood behind a counter at the long end of the room. It looked as if more was hiding behind the long counter, but Kate was not sure.

“Come on in! Don’t be shy!” A young man about twenty years old called, walking toward the doorway where Kate was. He had dark brown hair, a pleasant smile, and an apron on over his simple white shirt and brown pants. “Go on in,” he said, waving a hand toward the door. “We have enough room for you too.” He stepped past her and grabbed an armful of wood from a woodbox right beside Kate. For some reason she had not noticed it before. There was also a basket right beside the woodbox with a couple random vegetables in it and a wooden sign between the two that read, Give some food or wood and feed a hungry soul. Kate was getting more curious every second.

The young man started walking back inside with his wood and Kate decided to follow him. “So are you interested in some soup?” he asked, walking past the tables toward the counter.

“No,” Kate replied. “I was just wondering what this place is.”

The young man laughed. “It is a soup kitchen. We help feed the peasants of the town. Whoever has enough to share helps fill the woodbox and the vegetable basket. Thanks to God, we always have enough!”

“For all these people?” Kate wondered, looking at the many peasants all around the room. She had no idea such a place existed. She had never lacked anything at the palace, and it made her sad to think about these people who did not have much. By the smiles on their faces though, no one would guess that these bright-eyed folk ever did lack. Kate and Ivan walked over to the counter where the lady stood and walked behind it to a big stone fireplace. The woman looked at her with an interested, yet friendly expression.

“Yes, we have enough for all of them,” Ivan answered, tossing the logs into the sputtering, red fire and brushing his bark-and-dirt covered hands on his apron. “So, is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, I think I’d just like to look around this place a little,” she said. “And see what a soup kitchen is like.”

“Well, if you have nothing to do,” he said, grabbing an old, dusty broom near the wall. “Maybe you would like to do some sweeping. The floors sure do get dirty.” Kate’s big brown eyes almost bulged out of the face. “If you do not want to, that’s fine. One of the others can–”

“Leave the girl alone, Ivan.” the woman said good-naturedly.

“No, no!” Kate interjected. “I can do it. It is no problem.”
    “Thanks,” he said. “And I’m Ivan, by the way, and this is my mother, Susanna. We, and my father who is out in town right now, run this place, with the help of various others. What is your name?”

“I’m Kate,” she answered.

“Well, Kate,” Susanna said. “If you’ve never been here before, then you are in for a treat.”

“You sure are!” Ivan chimed in. Kate smiled and walked away from the counter to the tables.

“She looks strangely familiar,” Kate overheard Ivan say quietly and she walked away.

“Yes, she does,” Susanna agreed.

Kate started sweeping beside the tables. Ivan is right, she thought. I cannot believe how dirty this floor is. Little bits of food, dirt, and other junk was everywhere. She slowly swept, thinking about how she had never swept before in her life. I know how to, though, Kate thought.

“What’s your name?” A man with a kind smile said as she neared his table. “Did Ivan recruit you as his slave too?” Several people laughed.

“She’s a volunteer slave, John,” Ivan called teasingly from behind the counter. More people laughed. Kate was not sure what to say.

“Well, take a break and sit down for a minute,” John said good-naturedly, taking a stack of cards in his hand.

“I don’t want to play cards,” Kate said.

“No, we’re not playing cards,” he assured, standing up. Not until he had stood up did Kate realize how tall the man was. “I am just going to show you a trick. Sit down.” Kate sat down, not knowing what he was going to do.

“You aren’t going to do the–”

“Quiet Ivan, it’s just a little trick,” John said, still smiling. “It will be fun.” Then he returned to his seat. After expertly shuffling the cards for a little while, he lifted up his deck of cards and showed her the card on the bottom: the queen of hearts. “Now that is your card, okay?” he said. “Remember that.” Kate silently watched as he shuffled the deck some more. “Now,” he said, showing her the top card: the nine of clubs. “Is this yours?” Kate started to blush as she felt everyone watching her. She had not been expecting this.

“No, that is not my card,” she said. He put that card at the bottom of the deck.

“Is this your card?” he said, lifting the next card: the ace of spades.

“No,” she said once more.

“No?” he said, looking very confused.

“No,” she affirmed, and he put that one of the bottom of the deck.

“What about this one?” he said, lifting up a third card: the king of clubs.

“No, it is not,” Kate answered. The whole room was in silent tension and she was in the middle of it all.

“Not that one either?” John said, very surprised, dropping his cards onto the wooden table with a thud. “My trick must not be working. Let’s try this–look on your seat.”

Kate’s heart leapt as she spun out of her seat and looked on her chair. There it was–the queen of hearts. “How did you do that?” she called, a little too loudly for a proper lady. Everyone laughed.

“Everyone else here knows how, but I can’t tell my secret to you,” he said, smiling broadly.

“Tell her, John,” the young lady who had been cleaning tables said. Although Kate guessed her to be near her own age, she was much smaller. She had honey brown hair down to her mid-back, big brown eyes like Kate’s, a very pointy chin, and some, not overpowering, freckles. Much to Kate’s surprise, her hair flew free, not pulled up like a lady. 

“Why would I tell her?” John said.

“Because she probably will not come again, so how will she ever be able to find out?” the lady proposed.

“But if I do not tell her, maybe that will get her to come back,” the man explained. More laughter followed. “I want her to come back.” Kate smiled at the thought of them wanting her to come back. She really wanted to know the secret, and wondered how to get the man to tell her. Kate grabbed her broom and started sweeping, and she still had the feeling that everyone was watching her sweep. Just then some new people came through the door and, to Kate’s delight, the attention turned to them. It was a poor family with about seven children, and once again Kate felt that pang of sympathy inside of her when she saw them. Maybe I can bring some food here sometime, she thought. What was surprising to Kate was that everyone seemed to know each other. She swept rather quickly as the family got bowls of soup from Susanna and sat down at one of the tables.

For the next fifteen minutes, according to the old, wooden clock above the counter, everyone talked among each other and Kate swept in silence, enjoying the many cheerful faces and sights around her. She had not seen so many cheerful faces ever since the ball last month. Thoughts of the palace, her family, and the ball made her smile, but still she thought, I think that this might be even more fun than a ball!

Then, when she was almost done sweeping the room, a noise surprised her. The young woman who had tried to get John to tell her his secret jumped up onto a crate  just a few feet away. Everyone cheered as she poised the violin in her hand and started playing. Everyone, including the violinist, sang along loudly.

I’ve been on this road for years
Hallelujah, I’m going home
I’ve seen hardships, trials, and tears
Hallelujah, I’m going home!

I am going home!
No longer shall I roam
And I will sing with the angels that bright day
I am going home!
No more sorrow shall I feel
Every sickness, it shall heal
I am going, going, going home!

In my home there’s no more pain
Hallelujah, I’m going home!
Someday soon He’ll call my name
Hallelujah, I’m going home!

I am going home!
No longer shall I roam
And I will sing with the angels that bright day
I am going home!
No more sorrow shall I feel
Every sickness, it shall heal
I am going, going, going home!

The violinist started playing up and down on the violin while everyone paused the singing. Her red skirt flew as she stomped in beat to the music.  The music was so beautiful, so unlike the classical music Kate had heard in her life. When she took a break from the ceaseless notes and slowed down a bit, everyone joined again.

I am going home!
No longer shall I roam
And I will sing with the angels that bright day
I am going home!
No more sorrow shall I feel
Every sickness, it shall heal
I am going, going, going home!

Kate was amazed. Something about the music amazed her. Everyone cheered, but Kate was one of the loudest of them all. The young woman took a bow and stepped off of the crate.

“That was great, Lina!” one man called.

“Thanks,” the young woman said.

Just then, Ivan came from behind the counter and walked toward the door. “Who is going to help me shuck corn? The Robinsons brought a lot of it!” Some people went out the door, and Kate followed them.

There outside were two barrels of corn, wrapped up in their silky, green husks. Kate and the other volunteers stood watching as Ivan carried some crates out of the building and set them down by the barrels. “When you are done shucking, put the corn in these so that the Robinsons can have their barrels back,” Ivan said. “Now let’s split into teams. I will lead one team and, John, you lead the other.” Kate was a little nervous–teams? Ivan and John started choosing people for their teams while Kate was lost in thought, wondering how to shuck that corn.

“I’ll take this young lady,” John said, motioning towards Kate. She went over and stood by his team. She saw that the violinist was on the other team. Suddenly their eyes met. Kate looked at her with a confused expression and the violinist looked at her with a very determined and competitive look, as if to challenge her to a race. Suddenly Kate became very competitive as well, even though she had never shucked corn before.

“First team to shuck their barrel wins!” Ivan called. Everyone seemed to pause tensely for a minute. Kate could tell that everyone had done a race like this before and  wanted to win as badly as she did.

“Go!” Ivan called. In an instant everyone’s arms bolted for the barrels of corn. Kate grabbed an ear of corn and tore the husk off in an un-orderly fashion. She kept on doing this, taking peeks at the violinist on the other team. Her face was flushed and her freckles seemed to pop. She snapped the husk right at the bottom with surprising force and then threw the husk at the ground as if she was angry at it. Kate copied her, snapping the husks at the bottom, then tearing it off. She worked feverishly, determined to try her best, but try as she might, the cobs would slip out of her tense, shaky hands. Everyone else nipped the husks with ease. Calm down, Kate told herself, but she could not stop the jumpy feeling inside of her. She was thrilled and nervous, happy and upset, all at once. Nonetheless, Kate would pick up her dropped ears. As the minutes seemed to drag on, Kate was glad to see the ears in her team’s barrel slowly diminishing. She did not even look at the opposing team’s barrel. When the barrel was almost empty, Kate started to get the hang of shucking and snapped the husks with confidence. Kate could feel the pressure as they got down to the last few ears.

“We’re done!” the violinist’s loud voice broke the tension. Victory was written all over her smiling face. Kate frowned as she tossed her last cob into one of Ivan’s crates.

“We tried, didn’t we?” John said, smiling just as broadly as he had before the race.

“Yes, we did,” Kate said and smiled. It was all a game anyway, and it had been a lot of fun.

 Ivan carried the crates of shucked corn inside. When he carried in the last one in, he said, “Are you leaving yet, Kate?”

“No, not yet,” Kate replied, following him into the building. “What do you want?”

“My other helper is leaving, so I could use some help making soup for lunch,” Ivan explained.

“Sure, I can help,” she agreed, then added in her mind, Even though I have never made soup before.

“Great,” said Ivan. “Let’s start.” They walked behind the counter where Susanna was punching a ball of dough. Ivan lead her over to the huge fireplace where the biggest pot Kate had ever seen hung on a hook. “You can cut one of the onions in that bucket and I will get the oil,” Ivan instructed. Many people started trickling out of the building, leaving the tables empty except for a few folks playing cards in the corner.

Kate finished cutting the onion and she and Ivan put the onion and olive oil into the pot. It gave a most delightful hiss as the fire Ivan had started below it got bigger and hotter. Kate stirred the wilting onion as Ivan got a large jar of chicken broth and poured in the whole thing. “We get lots of chicken broth,” he said. “And we use it all.” Then Kate set to cutting the kernels off the cobs of corn. As she cut she thought of the race. The people sure do know how to have fun, she thought. Soon the corn was in there too.

“How about you shell some peas?” Susanna said, leaving her bread and looking at the fire. “There is a crate of them right there.” Kate looked at the pea basket nearby and wondered how to shell them. “Sure,” she said, setting the basket on the table. I can give it a try, she decided. She tried hard to break the shell with her fingers, but she could not. She tried pinching and tearing, and finally the shell snapped and she tore it apart. All of the peas came dropping out. It took a little while, but finally Kate realized that there was a string along the side that you could tear to open the shell.

“Hello!” a cheerful voice called. Kate looked over the counter and saw an older, gray-haired, bearded man carrying a basket stride into the building.

“Hello, Papa,” Ivan called.

“The garden is going well; look at all the food I got!” Ivan’s papa said, carrying his basket to a wooden shelf by Kate. “I also took care of the cow,” he added, setting a jar of milk down on the counter. Then he saw Kate, still working hard on shelling the peas. “Who are you?”

“I am Kate,” she answered.

“She’s been helping us today,” Ivan explained. “Kate, this is my father Martin.”

“Nice to meet you,” Kate said.

“It is nice to meet you too,” Martin said good-naturedly. “We always enjoy having help around our kitchen. So, Ivan, how is the soup going? The dinner crowd will be here soon.”

“Oh, it is going along fine,” Ivan answered. “Kate is shelling the peas for us.”

“I am almost done,” Kate informed. Soon the peas, spices, and slices of chicken were added and the soup was completed.

“Who’s going to wash the dishes?” Susanna asked. “The lunch crowd is starting to come.”

“I will,” said Kate. She walked over to the tin sink that was set up beside the shelves of food. It was half full of water and completely full of dishes. She grabbed the rag sitting hanging on the sink’s edge and started scrubbing with all of her might. There were many dishes, and by the time she was done with them all her arm was hurting.

The dishes are done, Kate?” Ivan asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Good,” Ivan declared. “The dinner crowd has arrived.” Kate looked over at the almost-full tables. Once again everyone was chattering and laughing, waiting for the food.

“What do I do now?” she asked.

“You could stand by the counter there and pass out the soup,” he said. Kat took a stack of bowls that she had just washed and started filling them with soup.

“Dinner is ready!” Susanna called loudly, and many people wearing dirty, torn clothes rushed up to the counter. Kate handed them each a bowl and Susanna a piece of bread. It felt good to Kate to be helping people, people who really needed something to eat. After everyone had their bowls though, she herself started to feel hungry.

“I am going to go now, Ivan,” she said.

“It was great having you here! Thank you for all of your help,” Ivan said.

“Oh, you are welcome,” she said.

“Will you be back here sometime?” Martin asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “I think I will.”

“Please do come again!” Susanna said.

“Goodbye!” Kate called, walking away from behind the counter.
    “Bye!” they called after her, as she stepped outside into the bright sunlight. It felt lovely to be outside again. The sun was strong, being that it was almost noon. She grabbed one of her biscuits from her pocket and started eating it. Even though it was less fresh than she was used to, being that it had been in her pocket all morning, she was glad that she had thought to bring it. As she wandered aimlessly down the road eating the biscuit, she wondered where she should go next. She saw a little dirt road beside the main road and decided to take it. As she walked down the dirt road she saw several houses by the road. Hills sloped gently up to the houses on either side of the path. Although it was all very pretty, Kate still wondered where she was going. To find something else that is fun? She thought. No, to see something new that I have never seen before. She decided. Thus she walked on down the path looking for something interesting and new.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Faith Williams
I am a fifteen-year-old girl who loves to write, especially fiction. I write many stories and poems. I usually have a moral or lesson behind my writings, for I hope these stories and poems, which Yehovah (God) helped me to write, will glorify Him as I share them on this blog. Welcome to my blog and I hope you enjoy your stay!

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